South African referees Craig Joubert, Rasta Rasivhenge, Marius van der Westhuizen, Ben Crouse and Aimee Barrett were named among an elite group of international referees selected to officiate at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in August, World Rugby announced on Monday.
Crouse, Joubert, Van der Westhuizen and Rasivhenge were named on the 12-member panel for the men’s tournament, from 9 to 11 August, while Rasivhenge will double up on the panel named for the women’s tournament alongside Barrett from 6 to 8 August at the Deodora Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
With the 2016 Games marking 92 years since rugby featured at the Olympics, the tournament will mark a significant occasion in each of the five referees’ careers.For Joubert, in particular, it will have extra significance, as he will add Olympic Games participation to a career that includes the Rugby World Cup Final in 2011, as well as the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Barrett, meanwhile, represented South Africa in the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, and featured in the Springbok Women and Bok Women’s Sevens teams between 2008 and 2010 before turning her focus to refereeing.
She was named on the SA Rugby Sevens and Women’s referee panels for the 2016 season, and made her debut as a referee on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Atlanta this past weekend. She will again be in action in the Canada Sevens in Langford on Saturday and Sunday.
“I would like to congratulate Ben, Craig, Marius, Rasta and Aimee for this special achievement, as only the best of the best are selected to officiate at the Olympic Games and World Cups, so we are very proud of them all,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“This achievement is a testament of the hard work they have been putting in over the last few months and years, while it is also an indication of their consistency as referees.
“I would like to make a special mention of Rasta’s selection as he has been named on the men’s and women’s referee panels, which is a remarkable achievement.
“I wish all the referees the best of luck as they prepare for the tournament over the next few months, and at the showpiece itself.”
Joubert thanked his colleagues for embracing his return to the Sevens Rugby referee panel following the news and said: “A few years ago when I first heard that rugby was to be an Olympic sport, I started dreaming about returning to Sevens.
“The environment remains as close-knit as I remember, and the welcome from the sevens family has been exceptionally warm. I’m thrilled to be selected in this group of officials as we build towards the Olympic Games in Rio.”
Rasivhenge was equally delighted about his selection and said: “It’s a dream come true for me; it’s something I have always dreamed of being a part of, as this is the biggest stage of all when it comes to competitive sport. It’s a life-changing opportunity and an experience that will start a new era in my refereeing career.”
A thrilled Barrett added: “It is an honour to be named on the Olympic Games referee panel. Only this past weekend I made my first appearance as a referee on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in the Atlanta tournament, so to be named on the Olympic Games panel is truly a dream come true.”
Olympic Games Men’s Referee Panel: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Nick Briant (New Zealand), Ben Crouse (South Africa), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Richard Kelly (New Zealand), Anthony Moyes (Australia), Matt O’Brien (Australia), Taku Otsuki (Japan), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Alexandre Ruiz (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).
Olympic Games Women’s Referee Panel: Aimee Barrett (South Africa), Jess Beard (New Zealand), Beatrice Benvenutti (Italy), James Bolabiu (Fiji), Sara Cox (England), Sakurako Kawasaki (Japan), Rose La Breche (Canada), Gabriel Lee (Hong Kong), Alhambra Nievas (Spain), Amy Perrett (Australia), Alex Pratt (Scotland), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa).